Thursday, 16 October 2008


Sorry, my pc has completely died, and access to my blog dashboard is via the husband's mac, unfamiliar to me. So watch this space next week: I'll be back.

Meanwhile, you will find a complete exercise and a tutor tip on my website. They are extracts from The Matrix book, and I change these termly. Link to Paxton Publishing to the right.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

'Champagne Method' of writing

I'm hooked on reading the lives and letters of artists and writers, finding inspiration and comfort in their struggles and strategies. Also, sometimes, quotes and exercise ideas for my students.

Letters of Ted Hughes, selected and edited by Christopher Reid (Faber and Faber, 2007), is a fascinating read and includes some useful support for aspiring writers. See the book for yourself; by way of review, and to tempt you, here's a bit of his 'Champagne Method' (pp 314-5).

It seems that back in 1971 he and a friend devised for mutual friend Irish poet Richard Murphy a list of exercises as a stimulus to his writing. Penalties and rewards were to be paid in champagne. Murphy recounts this in his memoir, The Kick (Granta, 1993). There are 15 items on the list; here are 5, and the instructions from Hughes:

All considered only as starting points--Also, each exercise to cover 3 pages in order to make a habit of flow & release. Also, under Beethoven's dictum to pupils: "Never mind the wrong notes--go through to the end." Very good dictum as dicta go.
  • A congregation of gulls, storm petrels, seals -- the text, the service
  • The voice in the well
  • The Saint's curse on desecrators
  • Fifty metaphors of High Island [choose some other place you & your students all know]
  • High Island considered as a woman

So give it a go! Up to you to devise the rewards and penalties -- and to lay in the champagne (or maybe cava, these days).

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Techno ups & professional bodies

The good news: I updated the Paxton website, providing, as I have promised, a new exercise and a new tutor tip for this term. Have a peek, they're on the 'Sample Inside' page. Well, my version of sample inside.

Professional bodies --

If you teach in LSC-funded further and community education remember that you should (have to?) become a member of the Institute for Learning (IfL). This is all about government initiative to improve standards of teaching in the long overlooked FE sector. See my January blogs about it (though membership deadlines have changed since then), and go to There's a nifty quarterly magazine that comes with membership.

And you must see/join NAWE (National Association of Writers in Education) It is directly up our street: writing and teaching writing. As usual, lots for schools primary and secondary. For HE too, somewhat. And there is attention to community and adult teaching of creative writing too. There's a big Resources Database listing, and well set-out announcements of events, such as the recent day of seminars for teachers wanting creative writing input, with Fay Weldon as keynote speaker. It was at Brunel University, organised by Celia Brayfield.

In mid-November NAWE's conference in Manchester offers fascinating multiple choices of seminars, among them The Pulling Power of Poetry, Guerilla Writing in Academia, Teaching Storytelling in Uganda's Refugee Camps, Teaching the Short Story...

Techno ups continued: On the Paxton site I changed the final page to be clearer about how to buy the book, now that it is selling via the website. I am even getting orders from bookshops; they have to order through Nielsen. But it means the customer has to pay £14 instead of the direct-from-author £10.
Tehno downs: just plugged in a new monitor and am going cross-eyed -- how do I get the resolution right!!!!?